CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH COCONUT BUTTERCREAM

Every Monday I like to take a bake to our department, and try to keep it varied, never the same type of sweet two weeks in a row. I always have too many options in my mind and go into a state of paralysis when the weekend arrives and I need to decide what to make. Last weekend was particularly tough, so I asked the husband to help me out. He did not even blink. Why not a chocolate cake with coconut frosting? And that’s how this cake was born.

CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH COCONUT BUTTERCREAM
(adapted from  Ina Garten and Stella Parks)

for the chocolate cake (make one day in advance):
(after Ina Garten)
228g all-purpose flour
400g sugar
75g unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

for coconut creme patissiere:
1 cup coconut milk
4 large egg yolks
65g granulated sugar
2 + 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

for coconut frosting:
(after Stella Parks)
170g egg whites
340g turbinado sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
450 g butter (4 sticks)  softened to about 65 F
115g virgin coconut oil

for the drip glaze:
113 g semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Make the cakes. Heat the oven to 350°. Butter three 7-by-2-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess.

I In a bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. Place the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, both leavening agents and salt in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer.  Turn the mixer on, and after a few seconds slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated.  Slowly pour the warm coffee. Batter will be pretty thin.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool. Peel off the parchment. When completely cold, refrigerate to finish next day.

Make the creme patissiere (can be made the day before). Bring the coconut milk up to a simmer in a medium saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and extract until pale in color. Slowly pour in the hot coconut milk while whisking continuously. Return the mixture back to the saucepan and whisk over medium-high heat until it boils. Boil for two minutes (important step, to destroy amylases in the egg yolks, that would prevent the cream from setting properly).  Pour the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve then stir in the butter. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream, making sure it is touching the surface, and refrigerate until cooled completely. Stir in the shredded coconut when ready to use in the cake.

Make the coconut frosting. Make a Swiss meringue by mixing egg whites, turbinado sugar, cream of tartar, salt and vanilla paste in a large bowl and bringing it to 185F over simmering water, whisking constantly.  Transfer to Kitchen Aid type mixer and whisk at high-speed for about 12 minutes until temperature is around 90F.

Add butter, one tablespoon at a time, then add the coconut oil. Whisk a couple more minutes until fully smooth, and use right away. You can also store it in the fridge, bring it to 70F and whisk again before using.

Make the drip glaze. Warm all ingredients in a bowl over simmering water. Once chocolate is fully melted and incorporated with other ingredients, remove from heat. Cool to around 98F to use.

Assemble the cake. Place one layer over a cake board. Add a layer of coconut frosting, top with a small amount of coconut creme patissier. Add second layer of the cake, repeat filling. Add final third layer, frost top and sides with a crumb coat of frosting. Put in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Add a final coating of the coconut frosting, work with a scraper to the remove a bit from the sides, exposing some of the layers. Place back in the fridge, so that it is very cold before you add the drip glaze.

Add the drip glaze with a spoon, dripping around the sides, then fill the top of the cake with a thin layer. Refrigerate again for 15 minutes or until the drip glaze is set. Add swirls of coconut buttercream, decorate the base with shredded coconut, if so desired.  Sprinkles are optional.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The chocolate cake is a favorite of mine. I’ve used it in the past, and was my cake of choice for a very special celebration back in December.  It is moist, it is intense, it holds well in layers. I was a bit worried that so much chocolate would obliterate the coconut component, but we are talking a duel between Ina and Stella, two Baking Titans. Stella Parks’ coconut frosting rose to the challenge.  I do think my little contribution of the creme pat was also pretty nice, so I discreetly offered myself a pat in the back.

Usually, when we think about chocolate cake with coconut frosting, the first idea that comes to mind is a mountain of white frosting with shredded coconut all over it. I don’t particularly care for the texture of shredded coconut when it is prominent like that. So for my personal taste this version is more appealing. And it does have a touch of elegance, I think.

I loved doing the drip glaze thing. It is not as dramatic as mirror-glazing, in fact it is much more Zen, because you can plan your drips and watch them form. Plan your drips. Yeah, that is one odd statement, but it’s the best I could do. It’s early and coffee has not kicked in yet.

I think this cake goes easily into my top five list. 

ONE YEAR AGO: Berry Rebellion Tarts 

TWO YEARS AGO: Bergamot-Cherry Macarons

THREE YEAR AGO: Roasted Veggies with Queso Cotija Dressing

FOUR YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli and Mushroom Casserole

FIVE YEARS AGO: Maple Walnut Biscotti

SIX YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

NINE YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

TEN YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini

 

 

BROWNIES, THREE WAYS

I share with you three takes on a very simple bake, the deliciously humble brownie. What makes a brownie a  brownie? Tough to define precisely because lots of different recipes will take you to that territory. In general, it is a simple cake with just a few ingredients: butter, flour, chocolate, sugar and eggs. But a leavening agent might finds its way there also, in case the baker prefers a more cake-like version. Marriages have been damaged due to brownie divergencies. I advise you to date people who share your passion for fudgy or cakey. Back to what matters. My three versions are right here for you.

BROWNIE, TRADITIONAL

I like it to be dense, creamy, not cakey. I like a brownie with substance, but that melts in the mouth and brings with each bite a moment of introspection because words seem like such a waste.

This recipe, straight from the blog of Helen, my tent-baker friend, checks all the boxes.For the recipe, visit Bakers Anonymous with a click here.

BROWNIE, DRESSED UP

BROWNIE PIE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the pastry shell:
(makes more than you need, save the rest in the freezer)
310g  all purpose flour
30g powdered sugar
pinch of salt
170g butter (chilled and cut in small cubes)
3 egg yolks mixed with very cold water to make a volume of 6 tablespoons

for the chocolate brownie filling:
100 g coarsely chopped 70% chocolate
10 g  Dutch-process cocoa powder
120 g unsalted butter
180 g whole eggs
130 g granulated sugar
50 g all-purpose flour, sifted
powdered sugar for decoration (optional)

Heat the oven to 375F.

Put the flour, sugar and salt in food processor then add the butter and process until the butter is in small pieces. With the motor running add the mixture of egg yolks and cold water. Stop the mixer before the pastry forms a ball, remove it from the processor and gently bring it all together with your hands over plastic wrap. Shape into a flat disc and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3mm. I like to do it in between two plastic sheets (I cut the four sides of a  large ziplock bag leaving just the bottom part attached, open it and roll the pastry inside it). Roll the dough as a circle large enough to cover the pan and leave a little extra around the sides. Place it in an 8-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Line the surface with plastic wrap and fill with beans. Wrap the plastic over the beans so that it does not touch the metal sides of the pan.  Blind bake for 15 minutes with the beans on, then carefully remove them and place the shell back in the oven for 20 more minutes. Remove and allow it to cool slightly.

Lower the temperature of the oven to 350 F.

Make the brownie filling. Gently melt the chocolate, cocoa powder and butter together in the microwave. In a bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and sugar by hand. Fold in the dark chocolate mixture, followed by the sifted flour. Continue gently folding using a spatula until well combined. Place the finished mixture into the blind-baked tart shell and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until it is set in the center.

Allow it to cool and decorate with powdered sugar using a stencil, if you like. Refrigerate until serving time.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This was decadent. We offered pieces to some bricklayers working in a little project in our home and they were very VERY happy.  This recipe has just enough flour to hold it together, so it is almost like enjoying a piece of ready to  melt chocolate on top of a sweet tart shell. Bliss. 

Am I the only one who sees a cute alien?

Now finally, my third version for you…

BROWNIE BITES, FOR FUN

BROWNIE BITES
(adapted from The Cookery Wife)

95 g all-purpose flour
200 g granulated sugar
75 g cocoa powder (I used natural)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, (1 stick, 113 g), room temperature
2 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla paste
2 Tablespoons full-fat milk (optional)

Heat oven to 350F.

Spray your mini-cake pan with baking spray containing flour.

In the bowl of a stand mixer add dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa, salt. Stir to combine. Next, add eggs, vanilla, butter. Mix on low for 30 seconds, add the milk and mix on medium-high for 2 full minutes. Batter will be very thick. Place it in a piping bag (no need for piping tip). Cut an opening and fill the mini-cakes between 1/2 and 3/4 full.

Using the tip of your finger coated with a bit of butter, press the batter to smooth it out. Bake for 15 minutes until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.

A toothpick can help loosen the sides, but be gentle.  Cool completely over a rack before decorating with powdered sugar.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

First of all, don’t let the lack of a mini-cute-Bundt pan stop you from making these bites. A mini-muffin alternative will work just as well. But, you know I cannot resist a baking gadget. I was a bit afraid of them sticking to the pan, but most came out just with a gentle flip of the pan (see photo, bottom left). Just a few stayed in, but were also released with a gentle tap, no harm done. I think filling them just a little over half capacity is the ticket. If some of them dome a bit, you can gently shave the bump with a small serrated knife, so they will sit leveled.

They have great flavor and the texture is not dense, even though the batter started so thick. You can decorate them with powdered sugar, a drizzle of caramel, melted chocolate. I happened to have some leftover white chocolate ganache from a macaron adventure, so I added a touch of that to most of them. They are perfect to bring to parties or share with co-workers. I will bake them regularly, my next project will involve a lemon cake. The idea is to avoid cake batters that are too light, you need more substance to get them to unmold nicely and keep the overall design.

ONE YEAR AGO: Berry Rebellion Tarts  (one of my favorite blog posts)

TWO YEAR AGO: Emilie Raffa’s High Hydration Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: Short-Ribs with Chickpeas and Chard

FOUR YEARS AGO: Asian-Style Short Ribs 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

SIX YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

NINE YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

TEN YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

SHARING A LITTLE GUEST POST

I love baking, I love exercising, I love my work, but I also have a secret passion for all things language. It gave me a thrill to be invited by the superb linguist Dr. Denise Santos to contribute with a little article to her blog.  If you’d like to see it, jump here.

PICKLING RIBBONS

A couple of weeks ago we went out for dinner and I ordered a salad that  was surprisingly good. I don’t normally expect to be impressed by a salad, but that was the case. What made it so good was a simple ingredient: ribbons of pickled carrots. I got home, took a virtual ride to Google University, and found out I could double the carrot pleasure by using it also in the dressing.  Very pleased with this salad which was hearty enough to almost call it dinner. Almost. Because some boneless chicken breasts were also involved.

CARROT RIBBON SALAD
(inspired by several sources)

for pickled carrot ribbons:
(slightly modified from Chocolate and Zucchini)
2 large carrots
1 tsp grated ginger
120 ml (1/2 cup) apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 + 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 + 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Peel the carrots and, using the vegetable peeler, cut them into thin ribbons. Place the ribbons in a heatproof bowl.

Combine the ginger, vinegar, salt, sugar, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. When the mixture boils, stir to make sure the sugar and salt are dissolved.

Pour the ginger brine through a sieve and into the bowl of carrots. Make sure the carrots are completely immersed, cover and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a clean jar, close tightly with the lid and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

for carrot dressing:
1/2 cup chopped raw carrots (include leftover from making ribbons)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced ginger 2 tablespoons (30 mL) fresh orange juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a blender, puree the carrots with the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and ginger. Thin with a little cold water if too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

for the salad:
(use as much of each ingredient as you like)
baby romaine leaves
slivered almonds, toasted
a couple of avocados, diced

Add the ingredients to a large bowl, add the carrot dressing and mix well, but gently. Drain the pickled carrot ribbons, and place on top.

Serve with your protein of choice, or a bowl of grains if you prefer to go the vegetarian route.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I don’t know about you, but at this time of the year, when I just about had it with the weather, a platter of colorful food lifts my mood. Pickled carrots will be here to stay.  I’ve been keeping a small jar in the fridge for my own pleasure. It seems to go well with lots of main dishes, and the texture only gets better with time. Make sure to shave them thin, and probably best to avoid that central harder core. Just turn the carrot around and start from the other side.

I totally forgot to take a picture of the dressing, it ended up with a shockingly bright yellow color, really beautiful. If you like pickled foods, I hope you’ll give this salad a try. Just remember that it is not good manners to steal all the ribbons to your own plate.

ONE  YEAR AGO: Green Beans and Carrots with Spicy Almonds

TWO YEAR AGO: Quiche 101

THREE YEARS AGO: Persian Butternut Squash Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: Walnut Cranberry Sourdough Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi in Brazil?

SIX YEARS AGO: Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lime Dressing

SEVEN YEARS AGO: 2012 Fitness Report: P90X2

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Caramelized Bananas

NINE YEARS AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

TEN YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

GALETTE DES ROIS

When I first applied to be on the Great American Baking Show, I started working to improve my baking skills.  I made a list of general techniques and a list of “classic bakes” to go along with them. Two years passed by. I went to the tent and came back. But this “self-improvement process” goes on. In fact, being in the show gave me extra energy and passion to get better. Tackle the techniques I still feel insecure about. Bake the classics. Such as Galette des Rois. I have always associated it with France, but it originated in Medieval times, enjoyed during Roman festivities known as Saturnalia. Usually a hidden figurine (or a bean, a whole almond) is baked in the tart, and the person who finds it gets to be King (or Queen) for a day.  I skipped that part in my dessert, afraid some departmental colleague would break a tooth. Galette des Rois: puff pastry enclosing almond cream. I can think of few things equally mouth-watering.

GALETTE DES ROIS
(adapted from Bake-Street)

For quick puff pastry:
125g all purpose flour
125g pastry flour
250 g unsalted butter, cold
6 g sugar
5 g salt
100-110g very cold water, from the fridge

for almond filling:
125 g almond flour
100 g powdered sugar
100 g unsalted butter at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves

to brush before baking:
2 egg yolks

to brush after baking (optional, but nice):
30 g water
30 g sugar

Make the puff pastry dough. Add the flours, sugar, salt and butter to the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix for about 1 minute in low speed until the butter gets into small pieces.  Add 100g of the water and mix another minute, checking to see if you need to add a little more.  The mixture should not feel too sticky, but it should come together nicely if you press it with your fingers.  Do not mix for too long, to avoid developing gluten. Tranfer the dough to a plastic wrap, form into a rectangle and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out as a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface. No need to worry too much about dimensions, I try to make it twice as long as it is wide. Make one envelope-type fold bringing the top down and the bottom part over it.  Turn the dough  so that one folded part is to your right. Roll out the same way, fold again.  Freeze for 30 minutes.

Remove from the freezer and roll again two more times. If the dough seems too warm, and the butter is threatening to melt into it, freeze it again for 30 minutes between the third and fourth folds. Once you finish the fourth fold, keep the dough in the fridge until ready to make the dessert. You can keep it overnight or longer.

Prepare the galette: Lightly sprinkle a work surface with flour. Roll the dough to a large rectangle,  around 22 x 14 inches. Cut two circles of approximately the same size, with the diameter you want your galette to be. Mine was 8 + ¾ inch in diameter.  Cover both circles with plastic and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Make the almond filling. To the bowl of your KitchenAid type mixer add the powdered sugar and butter, mix at low-speed until it starts to form a thick paste, add one egg and continue mixing.  Add the almond flour, always at low-speed, ,then the second egg. Add the vanilla and the spices, mix to incorporate.   Place in a piping bag, no need for icing tip.

Place the first round of pastry over parchment paper on a baking sheet. Pipe the almond cream makig a spiral over the circle, leaving  a space at the edge without cream.  Moisten the edges lightly with cold water. If you want to include a figurine or a whole almond, now is the time to do it.

Place the second disc on top, the water brushed on the edge should help it stick. Gently press the top dough over the filling to avoid bubbles being trapped underneath.  Use the side of a knife opposite of the blade to mark the dough all around the edges, so that upon baking, it will form a nice wavy design.  Brush the top with a well beaten egg yolk. Refrigerate for 1 hour, uncovered.

Brush with egg yolk again. Make a pattern over the surface, adding a small hole in the center to vent the galette during baking. Refrigerate, uncovered for another hour.

Meanwhile, make the syrup to brush the surface by adding all  the ingredients in a saucepan. Place on medium heat and boil until the sugar dissolves.  Cool completely before using.

Heat the oven to 375 F. Place the galette in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 340-350F and bake for 40 to 45 minutes longer.  If you want to brush with the syrup, do it as soon as the galette is baked, still hot from the oven.  Let it cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The traditional scoring on the surface is a spiral design. I decided to go with a different style, inspired by sourdough slashing. After I baked this galette, I saw a very nice version on Instagram decorating the surface with many concentric hearts. Who knows? I might fully ignore that Valentine is over, and go for it in the near future. After all, I already disrespected the correct day to serve this pastry, which happens to be January 6th. So a Galette de Coeur in March or April? Does not bother me at all.

The galette dough can be made with full-laminated pastry or a quick puff. I opted for the latter because it is a type of dough I am not that comfortable with. I made some for what would have been the semi-final of the show (click here), but had to speed up the process quite a bit to fit it all in the available timing.  For this galette, you can see that once you take your time and allow the dough to stay very cold all the time, it really puffs up beautifully.

I loved the addition of spices to the almond cream, which was a twist shared in the recipe at Bake-Street. By the way, that is one of my favorite blogs, I never miss her posts, the videos are a pleasure to watch. She is the neat and precise baker I aspire to be. Next life. There’s always next life…

Grab a pin, and let’s Saturnalia together!

ONE YEAR AGO: Sous-Vide Overnight Oatmeal

TWO YEARS AGO: A Valentine’s Day Opera

THREE YEARS AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four

FOUR YEARS AGO: Walnut-Cranberry Sourdough Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi in Brazil?

SIX YEARS AGO: Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lime Dressing

SEVEN YEARS AGO: 2012 Fitness Report: P90X2

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Caramelized Bananas

NINE YEARS AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

TEN YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

 

 

 

 

 

UTTAPAM, WHITE LENTIL AND RICE FLATBREAD


I am back with another recipe using ivory lentils (in case you’ve missed the first one, click here). I had never heard of uttapam, but learned about it in the website of the very company I got the lentils from. They are described as flatbreads, but I suppose little pancakes (or fritters) could work equally well if not better. After all, it is more a batter than a dough, that is poured instead of rolled, and cooked over a griddle, not an oven. In my mind, that gravitates to pancake territory. But flatbread, pancake, fritters… it’s irrelevant. They are delicious. Dangerously so, I should add.

UTTAPAM
(slightly modified from Woodland Foods)

(makes 8 little pancakes)

1 cup Basmati rice
1/2 cup Ivory lentils
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1 Jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
vegetable oil (I used grape seed)

Thoroughly rinse rice and lentils separately. Place each in large bowl of fresh water and soak for 2 hours.

Drain rice and lentils, and place in blender. Add salt, sugar and baking soda and grind mixture into paste. Add about 1/2 cup water, and continue blending to create thick batter. Transfer mixture to bowl, and set aside to ferment at room temperature for at least 4 to 12 hours.

Combine peas, Jalapenos and cilantro in a small bowl. Heat griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat and brush with oil. Pour in 2 to 3 tablespoons batter and spread out with back of spoon to create circle 4 inches in diameter. Sprinkle some of pea mixture evenly on top. Cook until small bubbles appear on surface, then flip and cook other side until crisp and golden.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I always feel a bit insecure making ethnic recipes I have zero experience with, but I must say this one turned out excellent, no problems, every step seemed to happen exactly as expected. Plus we both loved the texture and the taste of the little pancakes, that were served with a turkey chili. Sally again takes a ton of liberties with her dinner preparations. Chili made with turkey. Served with little flatbreads from India.  All enjoyed with no remorse whatsoever!

 

Pin me, pin me!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Valentine’s Day Sweetheart Cookies

TWO YEARS AGO: Fesenjan, Fast-Food Style

THREE YEARS AGO: Lavender Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache

FOUR YEARS AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

FIVE YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

SIX YEARS AGO: Happy Valentine’s Day!

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  A Few Blogging Issues

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

NINE YEARS AGO:  Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

TEN YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

ORANGE STREUSEL CAKE & THE JOYS OF BAKING BOOK REVIEW

I will never write a cookbook. Having said that, IF I ever wrote one, I would like it to be along the lines of The Joys of Baking, by Samantha Seneviratne. As Dorie Greenspan writes in her endorsement: A sweet meditation on why we bake… the book is a delight.

I couldn’t have said it better, Dorie summarized it all. I contacted Samantha and she gave me permission to publish one recipe on the blog. I had quite a hard time choosing which one to share, but decided to go with her Orange Streusel Cake, because its preparation is quite unusual and the cake turned out absolutely perfect for my taste.  But I will also show you pictures of another recipe from the book, Samantha’s  Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars. Because… ginger…

ORANGE STREUSEL CAKE
(from The Joys of Baking, published with permission from Samantha Seneviratne)

For the streusel:
½ cup (65g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, melted (I used half the butter)
1/2 cup (15g) sliced almonds

for the cake:
6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 entire navel orange (about 280 g), seeded, cut into large chunks
¼ cup (60g) sour cream, at room temperature
1 +1/2 cups (195g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

for the glaze:
3 to 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
¾ cup (90g) powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Prepare the streusel: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Drizzle the melted butter over the mixture and stir to incorporate. The mixture should clump together when squeezed. Toss in the almonds. Prepare the cake: Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite sides. Butter the parchment.

Place the orange in a blender and process until it is the texture of applesauce. It’s okay if you have a few larger pieces. You should have about 1 cup of orange purée. Add the sour cream and stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Beat in the orange mixture, then beat in the remaining half of the flour mixture.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Top with the streusel mixture. Squeeze the streusel to form a range of differently sized clumps. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Then, using the parchment overhang as handles, transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.

Prepare the glaze (if using): In a small bowl, whisk the orange juice into the confectioners’ sugar, adding a little less juice for a thicker glaze that will look lovely on top of the cake, or a little more for a thinner glaze that will soak in. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am very fond of marinades that use a whole lemon instead of its juice or zest, so the moment I saw that the cake called for a full orange turned into a pulp in the food processor, I knew I had to give it a try. You cannot get much more orange-y than that. And the drizzle of icing sugar/orange juice beautifully seals the deal. The cake is moist, feels rich but light at the same time, if at all possible.

Do you notice the little bits of orange throughout the crumb?
Absolute yumminess.

Now let me share with you a little teaser of a recipe. Originally I was going to focus the blog post on this one, because it was a huge hit when I took it to the Common Table meal (meals for homeless in our town). Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars…

It starts as a very smooth batter, pretty much like a brownie, a one-bowl deal.

Then you swirl a mascarpone cream into it, and marvel at the way it looks.

The crumb is tight, full of gingerbread flavor, and you get that delicious sharp contrast of the mascarpone every now and then. This will please anyone.

Now, a virtual tour of Samantha’s book.

From her introductory chapter, I cut and paste her words…

Cooking is a necessity. Everyone needs to eat. Preparing a special meal can be a joy, of course, but often it feels like a chore, just another item on an endless list of things that must get done. Baking is different. Baking is a choice. Baking is never a necessity. No one needs a chocolate cake to survive. Except, sometimes, a chocolate cake is exactly what you need to survive. Sometimes, a chocolate cake is the only thing you need in the world. This is a book about and for those times.

I was touched by this paragraph, it really echoes with the way I view baking. She then moved to talk about the tragic life story of Irma Rombauer,  the woman behind the most classic American cookbook of all times, The Joy of Cooking. I was unaware of it, and once again Samantha’s words touched me.

The Joys of Baking is inspired by the book that Irma Rombauer could have written. It’s the story of baking my way through my own heartbreak—of what happened when the parts of my life I thought would be the best turned out to be the worst, and when the things I thought would make me happy almost wrecked me, and why they didn’t.

The book is divided in chapters that have nothing to do with baking categories. They are: Courage, Grace, Bliss, Love, and Wisdom.  Each chapter and each recipe starts with a small paragraph that is like a tiny little window into Samantha’s soul. The window might be tiny, but the image it shows is very bright. 

From this chapter, many recipes tempted me to get into the kitchen and start baking. Coconut and Passion Fruit Pound Cake, a breathtakingly gorgeous Chocolate Cardamon Babka, Earl Grey Pain au Chocolat, the Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars (photo included in this post), and a Sweet Potato Cinnamon Bun with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Glaze (wow!).

The chapter opens with Salted Chocolate-Covered Chocolate Caramels. Of course, when a person wears braces, she will be fiercely drawn towards caramels, brittles, and nougats, even if before having braces those items were rarely part of her life. Anyway, I will make these babies the moment I get rid of my torture devices. Coffee Creme Bundt Cake, is beautiful and preceded by a heart-warming bit about her Dad. As always, just a little paragraph, just enough to make you smile and wonder if you haven’t been too narrow-minded about your thoughts about food.  Next comes a recipe I really wanted to feature in the blog, but did not have a chance to make yet. Ready to dream? Creme Brulle Tart with Pears and Chocolate. Yes, this will be in our kitchen at some point in the near future.  Danish Sugar Cookies with Currants and LemonPistachio and Praline PuffsSunshine Wreath (a thing of beauty!).

From this chapter the first thing that caught my eye was a shortbread, a recent weakness of mine. Her version is a Chocolate Almond Spelt Shortbread. Looks really tasty. Brownie Cake with Candied Hazelnuts and Whipped Cream...  Coconut BunsGingered Cashew Nut Brittle (blame it on the braces)…  Graham Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting (just adorable)…  Another heavy contender to be featured is We are Nuts About Nuts Cookies. Little sugar cookie rectangles dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with ground pistachio nuts. Just lovely. Orange Streusel Cake, featured today, is also in this chapter.


The chapter opens with my favorite little story of her book. Just a few thoughts about JFK Airport in New York City. More specifically about the arrivals gate.  “Where shopping and dining isn’t the point. It’s all about the crowd along the barriers.”  Just perfect.

From this final chapter, I would gladly try her Apple Snack Cake...  Barley Oat BiscuitsCinnamon Raisin Soft Pretzels (the picture is enough to make your heart missed a few beats)… Lemon Lime Earl Grey Sables...  Maple Cream Pie…  Orange Pistachio BunsSaffron and Chocolate Tea Cake…  and the very last recipe of the book, Unorthodox Challah with Dates and Cocoa.

I hope you enjoyed my little review and consider inviting this gem of a cookbook into your home. Samantha, thank you for allowing me to share a recipe with my readers. I look forward to baking more goodies from your book, and reading again and again your stories behind each one.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pink Praline Brioche

TWO YEARS AGO: A Spinach Salad to Write Home About

THREE YEARS AGO: Karen’s Four Hour French Country Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Siren’s Song of the Royal Icing

FIVE YEARS AGO: Blog-worthy Roasted Butternut Squash

SIX YEARS AGO: Chocolate Currant Sourdough Loaf & Roasted Beet Hummus

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flax Seed Sourdough

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Spanakopita Meatballs

NINE YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

TEN YEARS AGO: Pain de Mie au Levain